Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland school funding shake-up announced

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland's schools are set to face a shake-up in the way they are funded, the Education Minister has announced.

The formula by which schools receive cash is set to change, alongside the freeing up of an additional £30 million aimed at targeting what John O'Dowd has said is "educational disadvantage".

A proposal to scrap extra payments to small schools which could have led to widespread closures was also rejected.

The Minister revealed that he did not plan to remove the small school support factor of the funding formula at this time.

The announcement in the Assembly on Tuesday morning follows a review - led by Sir Bob Salisbury -  to examine the area and to report back.

John O'Dowd said the details of the proposals for consultation would be published in the the coming weeks, ahead of changes which would be brought in for the next financial year.

"A key area of focus for the independent panel was to examine how a revised funding formula could better support my determination to address educational underachievement and help break the link between social disadvantage and low educational outcomes," he said.

"A system which, despite continued yearly improvement, still sees disadvantaged pupils only half as likely to achieve five GCSEs or equivalents at grades A*-C including English and maths as their more affluent counterparts presents an education, an economic, a political challenge that we cannot ignore.

"At the heart of the changes is the desire to use the money at our disposal to target disadvantage, to improve educational outcomes for all young people and to tackle the attainment gap that persists in our system.

"The panel recognised that pupils from economically disadvantaged backgrounds have greater obstacles to overcome and that schools need to do more to assist them in breaking this linkage."

Regarding the small school funding the Minister rejected the review panel's recommendation to remove "all small schools factors from the current funding".

"However, it recognised that strategically important small schools would, in that scenario, have to be supported by funding outside the new formula in order to deliver effective education for their pupils," he said.

“While I am accepting the recommendation in principle I am not however implementing it at this time."

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